The laughter of my fellow dancers filled my ears. Uniformed child-like smiles gleamed across our faces. We all held hands, counted to three and plunged into a bottomless, never-ending pool of uncertainty.
My adrenaline was at an all time high as my body was submerged into water. A few seconds passed and I opened my eyes. I saw legs walking, feet kicking, and I could faintly hear the familiar laughter of my friends.
Suddenly, I realized I was the only one still under water. Getting this uneasy feeling, my chest seemed to cave in as if I were being crushed by weights. Every breath I took made me sink deeper and deeper. There I was sinking to my watery death, and no one seemed to notice. I could hear the slowing of my heartbeat.
It was then that I was aware of death.
I looked up at the hazy watery horizon and stared at the sun. With a surprising sense of peace, I began to lose consciousness. The next thing I knew, I was on the side of the pool coughing up the water that filled my lungs. Everyone surrounded me and proceeded to walk me out of the pool area. As I walked away I turned, looked over my shoulder at the pool and vowed to never have that experience again.
I was determined to honor my vow. A few weeks passed, I put on my bathing suit, took a deep breath and descended down the steps of the pool. I walked further and further into the pool until the water was at my collar bone. I remember thinking to myself, “This is it Cort.” I put into action everything I learned and began to swim.
When I came up to breathe I had the most self-gratifying feeling I’ve ever experienced in my short ten years of life. I quickly became a proficient swimmer. I loved it. I’d spend hours upon hours, days upon days in the pool.
I set out on a new goal. This time not only did I want to swim but I wanted to help others who could not and prevent other kids from drowning. In my tenth grade year of high school, I took a lifeguard training course.
That course was the hardest class I’ve ever endured. For example, we had a twenty minute timed test. We had to swim twelve laps, tread water without hands for three minutes, get a fifty pound weight from the bottom of twelve feet and swim it to the side of the pool. If all of this wasn’t completed within the given time, you’d fail.
When it was my turn, I remember being exhausted by the time I had to get the weight. I was at the surface of the twelve feet. Once I got a good idea of where it was I took a deep breath and dove under. I grabbed the weight swam to the top and proceeded to the side of the pool. When I finished my test within the time I got that same self-gratifying feeling my ten-year-old self had felt after teaching myself how to swim.
Look out, world.
Cortney Shakoor has been attending programs at Mighty Writers North for about a year. She’s a senior, headed to the Army National Guard in July. She scored well on her placement test, and her eight-year commitment includes a college degree. We’ll miss you, Cortney!